Monthly Archives: August 2015

They Call Me Kesa

Dumelang borra le bomma. O thlotse jang? Leina lame ke Kesaobaka. Sefane same ke Gosalamang mo Botswana. Kwa Amerika leina lame ke Joiwyn. Sefane same ke Lewis. Ke tswa kwa Washington State kwa Amerika. Ke gorogile mo Botswana ka di 3 tsa Phatwe. Ke moitaupi wa Peace Corps ke dira le tsa banana mo Botswana. Mo Molepolole ke ithuta Setswana le ngwao. Kwa Amerika ke ne ke le moithuti gape ke bereka ke le morutabana. Ke rata go bala le go robala. Ke a leboga!

Did you figure all of that out? Don’t worry, I won’t test you yet. Let me translate for you:
Hello gentlemen and ladies (don’t be surprised, men always come first). How did you spend your day? (the mid – late day version of how are you?) My name is Kesaobaka Gosalamang in Setswana (Kesaobaka means I praise him [for giving me another daughter]). In America, my name is Joiwyn Lewis. I am from Washington State in America. I arrived in Botswana on the 3rd of August. I’m a Peace Corps volunteer working with youth (banana) in Botswana. In Molepolole, I am learning Setswana and culture. In America, I was a student and a teacher. I like to read and sleep. Thank you!

Can you tell we’ve been working primarily on introductions? On the one hand, I can’t believe it’s been over two weeks since I left home already and on the other hand, it feels like I’ve been here for so long. I absolutely love it here. The people are so welcoming, the other volunteers are amazing people that I am so happy to have in my life, I’ve changed so many bad habits already (I have been really good about my dietary restrictions, have had better hygiene, haven’t watched any movies or TV besides the religious TV and news my host mom watches, haven’t been spending countless hours on the internet, and have been sleeping better and actually waking up in the morning like a normal person), I’ve learned how to do laundry by hand (sort of), have been doing much better with Setswana than I expected, and have been the least anxious I’ve ever been in my life. I can’t believe how much stress I’ve let push me around in life. I’ve had this amazing sense of calm and contentedness this past week. I know I am in the honeymoon phase of Peace Corps and there will be more ups and downs to come, but I honestly am just so ready to take this journey. But enough about my crazy Peace Corps high, let me tell you a little about my life as a Peace Corps Trainee.

Since you formally heard from me last, I got matched with my host family and started official training. In the matching ceremony, they called out the trainees one by one and then called out their families. When I stood up in front of everyone waiting to hear who my host mom was, I really had no idea what to expect. When they called out her name, Solofaleng Gosalamang, she jumped up and started yelling in Setswana. She came running to me, grabbed me in a big hug, tried to pick me up a few times and continued yelling in Setswana. Then she presented me in front of everyone with a few more yells. Since then, she has done this in other groups, and I believe her shouts are mostly “this is my daughter, my daughter, my daughter, my baby”, but that is a very rough translation. After we sat down, she told me my new name, Kesaobaka, told me I had three older siblings and started asking me questions. I was quite overwhelmed because I am really used to being the loudest most affectionate person I know, and she trumped me, by a lot. When she took me home, I was a little worried at first because I felt like a complete outsider being treated as an insider, which essentially, I was. She took me in as one of her children and immediately started worrying that I wasn’t eating enough and I wasn’t liking it at her home. At first this was a little hard for me to handle because I pride myself on being pretty independent, but then I started to realize how much she cared and how to navigate the situation and now I really do feel at home. She’s an extremely sweet women. She is very religious, but also very liberal. We have had amazing talks about diversity, labeling, race, and how we are all just humans and should love each other both because and despite of our differences. She says her English is improving already from talking to me and my Setswana is perfect (which, thanks to her, the few phrases I know are, but there is still so much I don’t know). Our house is great in love, but small in space. It has two nice size bedrooms, a very small kitchen (It has a refrigerator, freezer, and stove!), a small bathroom (but it has a working bathtub and toilet! No hot running water, though), and a decent size living room. Her son, my brother, Laone, lives in a house about the same size 10 feet in front of us on our compound. There are about 10 neighborhood children who love to watch me and talk to me. They will yell at me through the kitchen window when I am helping to cook, swarm around me when I am walking home from training, and watch me when I am walking around our compound. I am working on remembering their names and love to talk to them. They love to greet me and then they will occasionally yell to me that they love me when I am around.

Everyone is so friendly here. I have a small walk home after my daily training sessions (we have language classes from 7:30-9:30 Mon-Fri and then other classes until 5 on those days and then more language classes from 8-12 on Saturdays). During my walk, I am always greeted by at least 5 people, honked at by passing cars, waved and yelled to by young children and usually stopped by at least 2 people to have actual conversations where they ask me how I am in Setswana and when I respond correctly they reply with an emphatic “You people know Setswana!” It is also common for people in the neighborhood (known as the ward or Kgotleng here) to know my name. My mother is very well known and is often parading me around. We went to meet the chief of our ward, known as the Kgosi, on Friday. We had to do a small introduction of ourselves. After I did mine, my mother got up and ran over to me saying how well I did and hugged me. All the other mothers stayed in their seats. After the meeting was over, she was yelling to everyone about “her Kesa” and having me speak Setswana to them all. There was even one woman who came up to me and said, “Kesa, do you want it?” holding out her baby girl. At first I was very confused, but she kept pushing her infant toward me. One of the current volunteers here told me that that happened occasionally, but was usually a joke. It didn’t really seem like a joke though.

Otherwise our days aren’t too eventful. We just go to training and then I come home and have dinner. Every three days or so, I take a bucket bath (it’s common here for people to take a bucket bath twice a day, but I used the drought as an excuse with my host mom to get away with twice a week instead of twice a day.) I typically go to bed around 7 and read until I fall asleep around 8. The only things that hinder my sleep are the loud bar about 50 feet away, the pack of dogs that wait to bark until it’s about 9 and then all bark in tandem, and the man who walks around with a megaphone giving the village information about meetings and other events occurring in Setswana. That doesn’t stop me from reading though. I’ve already finished 5 books and am almost finished with my 6th. I’ve also been working on a long letter to my mom (it’s at 13 pages right now). I promise I’ll start writing to everyone else soon (and by soon, it will probably be more around my lock down, I mean community integration period, when I get to my site in 9 weeks). I of course miss you all, and there are things happening that I wish I could be there to support everyone with, but I really am extremely happy here and so proud of myself for doing this. I want to thank you all for your unending support and love. It makes this adventure so much more rewarding, knowing that you all support me. Sala Sentle (Stay Well).

Outside Motel


I don’t even know where to start. We’re sitting outside on our last night in Gaborone (Gabs as I will from now on refer to it as). It’s 63 degrees outside and we’re under a beautiful starry night sky. Even the sky is strange with all new stars that I’ve never seen and millions more than I’m used to seeing, and we’re in a well-lit hotel in the middle of the capital city! I can’t even imagine what the sky will look like in my village. It’s been a jam packed few days with lots to do and lots to think about and lots of crazy early mornings!!

Our trip started on Sunday morning as we got up at 4:30am EST to get all of us to the airport. As you all know, we then had our little bus/taxi accident that left us on the side of the road for over an hour. Once we got to the airport we had few hitches, just a little less time. Our fifteen hour flight was exhausting for our butts and minds, but otherwise uneventful. I read half a book, watched two movies, and slept for about three hours. When we arrived in South Africa, there was a long period of going through passport control and a whole other set of security checks, but that was also not as bad as I expected. We were there for a little over 4 hours, but most of that time was used to get through passport control and security, otherwise, I just looked around at the shops, got a neck and back massage, and bought some post-cards. We were then shuttle bussed to the little propeller plane to get us to Gabs and I promptly passed out as soon as we started taking off and woke up as we landed (shortest plane ride that I’ve ever been on). Once we arrived in Gabs, we were bussed to the hotel where we started our training! We got information about what was to come this week, ate an interesting meal (I’m doing really well avoiding gluten, dairy, and eggs so far!), and then turned in super early. Tuesday, we started bright and early with breakfast, then had some logistical stuff (immigration paperwork, receiving our allowances, getting bug nets, and taking head shots), did some Setswana training, and learned how to take bucket baths! And today, we woke up even earlier, had two hours of language before I got pulled out for medical clearance and the end of immigration, the we had information about our training village and what pre-service training (PST) is going to be like, and received our cell phones. It’s been a crazy packed schedule and now I’m getting ready to go to bed before getting up at 5:30 to head to our training village.
Tomorrow we move to Molepolole (Moleps) and meet our host families. This is a big deal. We’re going to be participating in a matching ceremony and have to look really snazzy (which means I have to cover my tattoos, so I’m borrowing some tights). It’s going to be another crazy eventful day. Then we start our typical training schedule of language lessons at 7:30am-9:30am, and then training from 10am-5pm. We even do language lessons on Saturday’s. While in Moleps, I probably won’t have internet more than once a week and I definitely won’t have it until after the first week. We’ll see how it goes. My goal is to post once a week.
The awesome part of this week has actually been getting to know all the amazing people. I have met some awesome people that I already click with extremely well. I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes me, it’s already been eye opening and amazing. I know this hasn’t been the most exciting post, but I wanted to let you all know that I’m here safe and I’m having a great start to my adventure. I love you all!

Lower Manhattan Skyline

It’s Finally Getting Real

I’m sitting on a bus, on the side of the road because a taxi hit us, no joke. But that’s a long story for another day. Oh, well, why wait? Let’s just take an early tangent. We’re on the bus and for some reason there is a taxi sitting on in the gore area on our right side with no signals or anything. It looks like it might try and pull in front of us, though, so our driver honks at him. He doesn’t pull out until we are already passed him for a little bit and then he decides to try to use the shoulder to get passed us, hits us, hits the guard rail, and bounces back and forth a little bit, then speeds off. He didn’t look that worse for wear though. So we’re sitting here, waiting for the police, which we have been for close to thirty minutes and I’m starting to think, what if we don’t make our flight? I think this is making it hit harder for me that this is really happening. I’m moving to Botswana! It’s been fun saying that to random strangers for months, but now it’s real. I’m flying out in 3 hours! I think that this is also why my goodbyes weren’t that hard. That is until the last couple of days. It didn’t feel real, but now it is. Saying goodbye to my brother and mom who have been my everything this summer was the hardest. They have been there for me through the entire process and I can’t imagine not talking to them every day. When my mom dropped me off at the airport, I cried through the whole security line (quietly and discreetly, of course! Although people have been talking about how they were sobbing in the airport.) It’s a tough transition to go from so much communication to an unknown scenario of communication.

As soon as I got on the plane to Newark though, with my friend Kyra, I realized that this is the most exciting thing. I’m moving to Africa and my family is also excited for me! They support me unconditionally on this decision and I think that makes this so much better. When I got into Newark, I was sad, but of course there was so much going on that I just got sucked into new experiences and that is great! I met new friends, had a great dinner, went on an adventure to find a bar at 1 am, and had a great night sleep. Then the staging began. I got up around noon, went down for registration, got sent back to my room to put socks on to cover my tattoos (I’m kind of of the opinion that white athletic socks with black dress flats is more unprofessional than some tasteful tattoos, but oh well), got registered, and then sat through 5 hours of talking about the basics and history of Peace Corps (PC). Then we had an adventure in Jersey finding a little hole in the wall Mexican place (which was a BYOB restaurant, I’ve never heard of that before!!), and then hit the town for our final night out before we leave America! So in other words, it was a very eventful weekend with little time to feel sad for leaving. And I’m really not sad to leave, I’m mostly just excited to see this next chapter of my life unfold. I’m sure that I will have highs and lows though and you’re just catching a high right now. I’m really looking forward to sharing my experience with you all and seeing where this crazy life takes me. So stay posted on that, but of course, I also miss you all and wish I could take you with me. It’s time for me to take this journey though.

P.S. The bus is moving again and it looks like we’re going to make our flight (crossing fingers).

Peace Corps Volunteers In Gaborone

Welcome To Africa

This post was written by Nick, Joiwyn’s Brother.

While Joiwyn has been traveling to Botswana she has sent me a few pictures that I posted to facebook and/or twitter along with some real-time updates on her progress across the globe. She traveled from Seattle to Newark, NJ on Friday and spent Saturday there. On Sunday morning she took a bus to New York and then a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. She had some text message and WiFi access there and then took a flight this morning to Gaborone, Botswana. She is now out of reliable contact and has a post written that has more details about her trip that she will send me as soon as she has a better internet connection.

For now here is an update from the Peace Corps Country Desk Officer for Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Botswana:

Hello family and friends of the newest members of the Peace Corps Botswana family,

Below is a picture of the Peace Corps/Botswana 2015 training class upon arrival at the airport in Gaborone, Botswana. All trainees arrived safely after some extensive travel time. By all accounts from Peace Corps staff in Botswana they are doing extremely well, in great spirits, and excited to get started on the next couple of months of training. You should hear directly from your loved one soon, but it will take some time for them to get situated and the days are full of training sessions.

Peace Corps Volunteers In Gaborone
Peace Corps Botswana Safe Arrivals Photo